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Advantages to rural communities through beekeeping

Beekeeping can be an effective manner to help small scale farmers, villagers and people living within rural areas. The direct benefits of beekeeping are numerous, but the indirect benefits are just as important.

Beekeeping can help urban and sub­urban areas as well, but Rupert’s Honey concentrates on rural locations as this is the area of greatest need.

Direct benefits of
beekeeping to rural communities

Direct benefits are those which stem directly from the activity of beekeeping. They are quantifiable and often obvious, while indirect benefits are less obvious. An example of a direct benefit would be honey production, and indirect benefit would be advantage of increased crop production to a neighbouring farm due to the pollinisation of plants by bees.

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Honey Production

The most obvious reason for beekeeping is the production of honey. As a sweet (often liquid) substance, with a long shelf life that is highly prized throughout the world and sustainable produced, honey is a wonderful way of earning money. Honey production varies depending on the plants the bees visit, how much is produced and what the properties of the honey are.

Wild vegetation often produces nectar (used by the bees to produce honey), and agricultural crops often produce nectar too. Bees are effective foragers, flying many kilometres around a hive gathering nectar from plants 5km­10km away. They have no sense of human boundaries and thus utilise land inaccessible to the owners of a hive such as a nature reserve, land across a physical barrier such as valleys, rivers or mountains.

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Bees wax production

A bi-product of honey production, bees wax is a very useful product that gives direct benefit to the beekeeper. It can be easily processed through solar equipment into a stable solid form and used when required or sold immediately. Bees wax has been used throughout history for a wide variety of products and its use has not diminished in modern times, even when competing with cheaper petrochemical based waxes. The knock on effect of bees wax beneficiation into products such as candles, polishes, cosmetics etc. make this product a valuable product for beekeeper all over the world.

Bees wax is also needed in modern beekeeping, and by supplying additional bees wax, moulded into foundation and supported with wired frames, the extraction of honey is simplified and a better cleaner quality of honey produced. In tropical areas this is not as important as in temperate climates, however it is still good beekeeping practice, giving the bees straight combs to build onto and simplifying beekeeping. Thus bees wax is always needed and is a valuable secondary product from beekeeping.

Smaller, more complicated
products from beekeeping

There are a number of other products of interest to beekeepers which can be marketed from a beehive. Propolis, royal jelly, pollen, Queen bees, bee venom etc. are all interesting lesser and slightly more complicated products. They do not have the long shelf life of honey and bees wax but if beekeepers concentrate on these items, they can be of high economic value

Indirect benefits of
beekeeping to Rural Communities

There are a number of indirect benefits to a rural community due to beekeeping. Some will be explained here, whilst others require a fuller explanation and thus are linked to other sections on this site. A quick look at the main indirect benefits of beekeeping are:

Extended shelf life of honey and bees wax

Honey is highly prized due to its sweetness and long shelf life. The majority of honey produced within developmental projects goes to local consumption and having honey to eat in a household is of great benefit to the participating of the project.

At the same time, honey has a long shelf life and is easily stored in sealable plastic or glass containers Rupert’s Honey found that many participants stored honey in this way for the rainy season when crop production was low. It was not so much to be eaten, as having a saleable commodity when there was little else being produced that gave honey such a prized value. Honey is sold in markets and the proceeds used to purchase essentials.

Bees wax has a similar characteristic but can also be beneficiated or used in the house hold as candles, wood polish, cosmetics all being made, used and sold.

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Reversing the global trend of Urbanisation

With job creation and the economic stimulation of beekeeping projects in rural areas the potential to reduce the influx of people into towns and cities is high. This is naturally extremely difficult to monitor and quantify, but Rupert’s Honey have had good experience with people choosing life on small scale farms in rural locations with beehives rather than leaving the land to find employment in cities.

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Honey used in medicinal practices

Possibly the most surprising result of a developmental project Rupert’s Honey conducted in Zambezia Province, Mozambique was the high need of honey in the local hospitals and clinics surrounding the honey factory. Honey is often used in traditional treatments, both internal and external of the body and the highest percentage of honey produced in this project (of 1000 Jackson Horizontal Hives) was in fact to medicinal usages. The beliefs and usages of honey within medicine extend well back in human development and are often continued in rural locations where health care and access to modern medication is limited.

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Slowing deforestation

Rupert’s Honey had good success with slowing the effect of deforestation in areas where bees were maintained in Zambezia Mozambique. Large mature trees are often felled for timbre and coal production. These same trees are the primary forage source for bees and honey production. The effect of coal production around cities in Africa has been devastating to vegetation and deforestation creates many additional problems. Rupert’s Honey was able to calculate the once off benefit of a mature tree in coal production against the estimated cost of that same size tree sustainably with income generated through beekeeping. The value of a tree was so much greater in beekeeping that people stopped felling large mature trees in areas around the hives, preferring the annual income over the once off income with coal production. Some farmers became very protective of their trees, preventing others from felling them too. This was a surprising but strong benefit from beekeeping in the area.

Tree and shrub planting programs often go hand in hand with beekeeping projects. Rupert’s Honey will try source trees and plants which produce nectar and thus increase bee forage and encourage beekeepers to plant trees and shrubs wherever they have apiaries. This program takes time to benefit the beekeepers but the overall effect of working with indigenous nurseries to supply plants and linking the two programmes is positive. Working in cooperation with other projects strengthens both projects together